Backwell mum backs fight for legal aid
PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 May 2011
A MUM-of-five from Backwell is urging people join the campaign to stop the Government from cutting legal aid funding.
Heidi Ridge, aged 37, of Moorfield Road, had to address a legal panel to get her autistic son a place in a special needs school.
Bailey, aged 12, who has a severe language disorder, was due to move up to Nailsea School from Grove Juniors, but his parents were worried he needed more specialist care and would not be able to cope in mainstream education.
To secure one of the limited spaces at a specialist school, Heidi had to attend a tribunal in Bristol to get a statement which confirms Bailey has special educational needs.
Heidi said: “Grove is a really good school and they were fantastic with him but he would have gone up to Nailsea School and he wouldn’t have coped with it.
“You can’t go to a special needs school unless you have a statement confirming your child has special educational needs. “He now goes to Westhaven School and he’s really flourished. He’s a different child.”
Bailey has speech therapy and occupational therapy, which helps to improve his sensory and gross motor skills.
Without legal aid Heidi, a full-time mum, and her partner Jason Rause, aged 42, who is currently unemployed, would not have been able to help Bailey.
Heidi said: “There are so many people out there who need legal aid for educational, housing and medical needs. If it’s not there then we are not going to be able to fight our cases. A lot of families are going to struggle.”
The Government currently provides legal aid to help people protect their basic rights and access the court process to sort out disputes. It pays for solicitors to help people understand the law and their rights and to represent them in court.
The Government is now proposing to cut £350million in the legal aid budget, which the Law Society claims will affect the most vulnerable and needy people in our society.
Heidi and Jason, have four other children, three of which also have special educational needs and Heidi is worried she will not be able to get legal aid when she has to fight for their educational needs too.
The family is now backing the Law Society’s Sound Off For Justice Campaign to try to safeguard legal aid and are appealing for others to do the same.
To support the campaign the Law Society is asking people to sign the petition letter to Ken Clarke at www.soundoffforjustice.org